KENT: The wins have come sparingly this season for the Kent State football team, but the third one will be remembered for some time by the 16 senior players who suited up for their final time Wednesday night at Dix Stadium.
With contributions from a handful of seniors – including versatile Dri Archer on offense and shifty Roosevelt Nix on defense – host Kent State kept Miami winless with a 24-6 victory on a memorable Senior Night.
“A lot of (the seniors) made great contributions in today’s win,” Kent State head coach Paul Haynes said proudly. “All 16 seniors got in the game and played a good game for us. Now we have to finish the mission (during Tuesday’s final game of the season at Ohio) and then send them out on a winning streak.”
With four tackles, a half sack and 1.5 tackles for loss, Nix led a KSU defense that recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass while holding the Redhawks to just 176 total yards and two field goals.
“You knew it was going to be a tough day coming into it,” admitted Nix, who was named the Mid-American Conference Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year following his first season. “You just think about the fact that I’ve been here four years. I remember when I did my interview. It all happened so fast.
“Even though this year hasn’t gone how we wanted it to, it’s still a great feeling to go out there with a bunch of guys you’re going through it all with – the good and the bad – and just be out there playing for each other. It’s a great feeling.”
Offensively, Archer finished the game with 12 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown as well as one reception for eight yards. In the backfield Archer teamed with junior fullback Trayion Durham, who ran 17 times for 109 yards and a touchdown.
“These guys were excited to run the football today and whenever that’s the case, it seems to work a little better,” Haynes said. “I heard Dri and Trayion on the sideline talking about ‘we’re just gonna keep trading off, pounding it and running it.’ It was good to see.”
In rolling up 447 total yards of offense, it was the kind of output by the Flashes (3-8, 2-5 in the Mid-American Conference) that hadn’t been on display much during the disappointing season.
But first, the host had to rebound from a slow start that included a fake punt gone wrong early in the first quarter when backup Andrew Horning got the look he wanted from the Miami defense. But instead of running straight ahead, he tried to juke a defender and went nowhere.
“It was the worst fake in America, the worst fake punt in all of college football,” Haynes only half-joked, but at least he was smiling.
The miscue allowed the Redhawks (0-10, 0-6) to take over at KSU’s 29-yard-line and they quickly cashed in the great field position with the first score of the game. However, the Flashes defense rose to the challenge and held the visitors to a 33-yard Caleb Patterson field goal with 8:34 to go in the first quarter.
On his first couple runs of the game, Archer passed former Flashes running back Eugene Jarvis for third place on KSU’s career all-purpose yards (4,714).
“It was real emotional before the game,” Archer said. “You know, walking out there and seeing your parents on the field, shaking coach’s hand, (atheltic director) Joel (Nielsen’s) hand. It was really emotional for all the seniors, but it started to slow down once the game started and we started playing football.”
After a 14-yard pass play from quarterback Colin Reardon to senior receiver Tyshon Goode, the Flashes went up 7-3 lead on Durham’s 2-yard touchdown plunge with 4:03 left in the opening quarter. On the extra point, Flashes sophomore kicker Anthony Melchiori made his return to the field from a hamstring injury that was expected to cost him the rest of season.
In the second quarter, Miami quarterback Austin Gearing fumbled the ball on a botched zone read and Kent State senior defensive end Mark Fackler recovered it. The Flashes promptly turned the gift into seven points, a score set up by running back Anthony Meray’s back-to-back long gains of 45 and 18 yards.
Reardon capped the drive with a 1-yard keeper on a naked bootleg. With another Melchiori extra-point kick, the Flashes increased their lead to 14-3 with 5:59 to go in the first half.
But before halftime rolled around, another Patterson field goal – this one a 28 yarder – allowed Miami to cut the deficit to 14-6 with 1:40 left in the first half. But it was as close as the Redhawks would get.
With both defenses picking up the pace at the start of the third quarter, the teams traded a series of punts until Archer finally broke free, sprinting 20 yards for a touchdown that pushed the lead to 21-6 with 1:27 left in the third quarter. Archer also had a 17-yard run to set up the three-play, 57-yard score, his 37th career touchdown.
“I might be a little guy, but I like running up the middle through the tackles,” Archer said of the third-quarter score.
Melchiori added a field goal in the fourth quarter, a 23-yarder with 6:32 to go in the game.
“When you have guys out there tearing up because it’s their last home game, it does something to you,” Nix said. “It just makes you want to play with everything you have. There’s a lot more high fives and ‘good jobs’…When you know it’s your last (home game), you just have to give it your all.”